MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-13-Juneau, asked Wis. Gov. Tony Evers Nov. 1 to withdraw the nomination of Brad Pfaff as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. There aren’t enough votes in the Wisconsin State Senate to confirm him, Fitzgerald told Evers.
Cabinet secretaries in Wisconsin are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate. The state’s constitution doesn’t define when such a vote must occur, meaning the chamber can vote at any time to approve or reject any secretary.
The Republican-controlled state Senate confirmed five cabinet secretaries in October. Confirmations have yet to be confirmed for 11 other secretaries.
Alec Zimmerman, communications director for Fitzgerald’s office, said Pfaff has clashed with the state legislature. He cited examples.
Fitzgerald wrote a letter July 24 to Secretary-designee Pfaff after Pfaff criticized the legislature’s budget committee for failing to release funding for a new program to provide mental-health assistance to farmers and their families.
Pfaff had said July 24, “As of today (the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection) has funding to provide just five more counseling vouchers to farmers in need of mental-health care. If the Joint Finance Committee doesn’t want to move this funding forward immediately, then they have a choice to make – which five farmers will (receive mental-health care)?”
Fitzgerald described Pfaff’s comments as “offensive and unproductive.” He said the Senate will take action this fall on bills funding mental health programs.
“During my time working with Secretary-designee Pfaff, I have found him to be very approachable and easy to work with,” said Miranda Leis, ag-department chairperson. “He has been diligent and willing to answer questions when needed. In my role as board chair my job is to work with whoever the governor puts in place to serve the citizens of the state, and particularly those interests surrounding agriculture, trade and consumer protection.”
Leiss said instability in leadership at the ag department could lead to service delays to Wisconsin farmers.
Cooperative Network CEO and ag-department board member Dan Smith said, “(Pfaff’s) experience, work ethic and dedication to Wisconsin agriculture highly qualifies him to lead this important state agency. I strongly recommend the state Senate confirm his appointment.”
Pfaff did not respond to a requests for comment.